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    John le Carré: An evening with George Smiley

    John Le Carre speaking at Royal Festival
    Caspar Stevens © Southbank Centre

    On Sunday 12 December we were saddened – as indeed was the whole literary world – to learn of the death of the author John le Carré.

    An incredibly gifted storyteller, le Carré made his debut as an author in 1961, drawing from his own experience working as an intelligence officer with MI5, to pen Call for the Dead. The novel’s central character, the remarkably unremarkable George Smiley, would become synonymous with the author, appearing in nine of le Carré’s works, including 2017’s A Legacy of Spies.

    It was only after the tremendous success of his third novel in 1963, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, that le Carré left his role with the British Foreign Service to become a full-time author. Espionage’s loss, was undoubtedly literature’s gain, as the writing of le Carré has come to define the last half century, from his extraordinary Cold War novels – such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Russia House – to his powerful descriptions of the War on Terror in A Most Wanted Man, and A Delicate Truth.

    In 2017, we were lucky enough to welcome John le Carré onto our Royal Festival Hall stage to share the secrets behind the creation of his most beloved character, George Smiley. And we’re delighted to share an excerpt from that intimate event, in which the author explains the origins of Smiley, and his own evolution into becoming a writer.

    John Le Carre speaking at Royal Festival
    Caspar Stevens © Southbank Centre

    “My literary cover name of John le Carré and my fictional spy, Mr George Smiley, were born on the same day, in 1958, on the same first page, of the same first novel…”

    John le Carré